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Tithing vs. Prosperity:  Give 10 percent of your income to the church and you'll be blessed

Tithing vs. Prosperity: Give 10 percent of your income to the church and you'll be blessed

Every once in awhile, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) reminds its viewers that they need to be giving money.  The way CBN solicits money is by telling people that if they tithe, they will receive financial prosperity.

An example of this is a YouTube video published on July 13, where a woman named Vinitha had a great full-time job lined up a half year prior to graduation from college. The starting salary was more than she requested, according to the clip. The video shows her receiving yearly raises and bonuses, even though her co-workers were not getting them.

While attending college, Vinitha was told by a pastor that the Bible teaches that if you give 10 percent of your income to God, God provides, so she started doing so. "Vinitha loves to give to CBN and Operation Blessing," the video notes, adding, "Of all the things Vinitha learned in college, there is one lesson she will never forget: {Vinitha's voiceover} When God says give, you want to give, you don't want to do it any other way."

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CBN is just one of many religious organizations that push the idea that Christians should give ten percent of their income to the church because the Bible says so.  Like the Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN), it just asks in a nicer way than some, offering the proverbial carrot of prosperity as a reward from God for the donation.   [pullquote]Many people pay all of their bills and then tithe to God out of what is left. That may be common practice, but the Bible teaches otherwise.[/pullquote]

Paying Tithes Before the Bills.

At CFaith — Freedom in the Word, John Avanzini warns, "To have an effective ministry of giving, you must have proper priorities. Many people pay all of their bills and then tithe to God out of what is left. That may be common practice, but the Bible teaches otherwise." He adds that if people but the business of God first, God will take care of their business and add to their personal "harvest." As to personal financial management, he writes, "Please be wise enough to see that if you tithe and make offerings after paying all bills, you leave yourself at the mercy of your bills. They control your tithes and offerings. But if you tithe first and give generous offerings, your tithes and offerings control your bills."

Type in "pay bills or tithes" in Google and you'll find over 750,000 search results, filled with questions from despairing Christians who, facing limited finances, wonder if they should forgo paying their rent and other bills so that they could pay the church instead.  One of the sites dealing with this issue is ChristiaNet, which has page after page of forum discussions on this. One of the forum headers reads, "A couple gets behind in their bills. Does God want them to pay their bills up to date or tithe without paying them up to date?"

"Give to God first and he will take care of you and your family. Give to God what's first not what is leftover. If he came to dinner at your house, you would serve him before you would your own family. God needs to be #1 in everything you do. He doesn't come first he doesn't come at all. God is tired of being a umbrella and just getting him out when it rains," responded Rebecca.

"I personally know this young Evangelist," answered Sean on the forum. "He and his wife had paid their bills but had come to "tithe or eat for the next week". This was a hard decision to make for a family with four young children. The Evangelist decided they would tithe and trust God. They went to church and never mentioned their hardship to anybody, not even their parents. They didn't go out to lunch with anybody but went home to empty cupboards. When they opened the door to their kitchen, there on the table and counters was a months worth of groceries. The point is, God already knew their need and had sent someone to the Ed Youngstore before they even committed to do the right thing. It's a faith thing. Do you really believe? You can actually live by faith and believe."

But others, like Robyn, were more practical with their advice. "I still say: pay bills first with the money God has provided. I would put aside a good offering,first. I would not forget to do that. Look at this. If you do not pay your bills, you will soon find yourself outdoors.  You can believe this: your church won't be there to bail you out when the eviction notice arrive. Especially your pastor."

This is such a big issue that R. Renee and Cynthia Harper's book, The Tithing Hoax, became a #1 bestseller at the African American Literary Book Club.  The authors maintain a blog by the same name, where they write:

  • Tired of paying 10% of your income when you can’t afford it?
  • Do you feel guilt, shame or condemnation when you don’t pay tithes?
  • Maybe you are not receiving the blessings, miracles or breakthroughs that a preacher promised you would receive when you pay tithes.
  • Are you seeking answers to your questions about whether you should pay tithes? The Tithing Hoax provides you with biblical proof that the practice of tithing is not for the modern-day Christian church.

The authors also maintain a YouTube channel.  In one of the episodes, R. Renee responds to a Twitter feed where she noticed, "A young woman posted a Tweet stating she used her rent money to pay tithes. As a result she did not know how she would pay her rent. And she was waiting on God to send her the money for her rent."  [pullquote]This is called you're wanting God to bless your financial mess.[/pullquote]

Renee thinks that it may be a common problem in the Christian church, where people use their bill money to pay tithes. "Stop thinking you are doing God a favor," she says about this practice. "When you take the money from your rent, the money from your mortgage, your car note, your student loan, what have you, and you put it in a collection plate or you put it in that tithe envelope, that money is going to the church. That money is going to the pastor. That money is not going to God [...] Keep in mind, God will not ask you or require you to neglect your financial responsibilities to 'pay Him.' And you have to think about, what sense does it make to take the money from your rent, your mortgage, your car note, what have you, and give it to the church, the pastor and then sit down and think about what you did, wondering how the hell am I now going to pay my bills? This is called you're wanting God to bless your financial mess."

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Shameful Demands for Tithes.

FBC Jax Watchdogs is a popular blog that is filled with stories about greedy and abusive pastors who demand money from their followers. One of the stories is about a Southern Baptist preacher named Ed Young, Jr. of a Texas megachurch called Fellowship Church. In October 2010, Young passed out "tithing commitment cards," telling congregants to hand them in, with their bank routing numbers and checking account numbers filled in so that the church could automatically take 10 percent of their gross income. Young promised that some of them would become very wealthy as a result. Watchdogs documented this in a video that has some edited commentary:

Ed Young Goes After Access to Bank Accounts of Church Members from FBCJax Watchdog on Vimeo.

Young made headlines when he was urging married congregants to have more sex.  Earlier this year, he and his wife hosted a "sexperiment" to encourage Christians to experience marriage "God's way."

Dallas/Ft. Worth's WFAA-TV investigated his lavish lifestyle, which included a luxurious mansion and private jet.

Young currently has his home in north Dallas up for sale, with an almost $2.2 million price tag.

Rod Parsley, a controversial megachurch pastor who endorsed John McCain in 2008 before being rejected by McCain, was one of 80 right wing pastors who gathered in Texas last summer to plan on how to defeat President Obama in the 2012 election.  He has declared on his television show that the Bible charges that Christians must be militaristic, and cannot dialogue and debate. They are to "fight" or slink passively into irrelevance, watching the nation slide into a "godless, faithless, rudderless and valueless" darkness just like secular Europe.

For three years straight, Parsley has asked for millions of dollars from followers of his World Harvest Ministries and Breakthrough ministries, lamenting that the ministries' budgetary shortfalls were because of demonic attacks from Satan.   But as shown in an earlier clip from the Trinity Broadcast Network, he took a more direct approach, wandering into the audience and snatching a woman's purse and declaring as he rifled through her billfold that she would "open into a new season," apparently meaning she and everyone else who gave him money would receive prosperity (the video is edited with the YouTube users' comments, but well worth watching):

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The founders of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which aired Parsley's performance, are Paul and Jan Couch, who are known for their lavish lifestyles and outlandish appearances. They are currently embroiled in lawsuits over alleged fraud and criminal activities.

Church Donations Down.

A 2005 report by the Barna Research Group revealed that in reality, despite all the 10 percent tithing talk, the majority of American churchgoers do not tithe anywhere near that amount.

This year in the United States, donations to religious organizations have dropped for the second year in a row, according to a report by Giving USA. Confidence in organized religion is at an all time low.

Perhaps Andrew Sullivan, writing in Newsweek's April 2, 2012, edition, summed it up best:  "Christianity has been destroyed by politics, priests, and get-rich evangelists."

About D. Beeksma

One of the growing crowd of American "nones" herself, Deborah is a prolific writer who finds religion, spirituality and the impact of belief (and non-belief) on culture inspiring, fascinating and at times, disturbing. She hosts the God Discussion show and handles the site's technical work. Her education and background is in business, ecommerce and law.
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Johnson/578763485 Robert Johnson

    Christianity is based on selfishness. It's all about what a person gets. To start with Christianity teaches if you become a Christian you get eternal life and if you don't become a Christian you get eternal damnation. The Bible says that Jesus said Christians will get mansions in heaven. In spite of the book's claims that Christians don't have to tithe anymore, the New Testament makes it very clear that those who give money will get benefits and those who don't will suffer. A great example of this is Acts 4:34 – 5:11 which claims people who were holding back money they received for selling their home and not giving all of it to the apostles for the Christian commune were actually killed by the Bible god! (
    http://www.deism.com/communismbible.htm ) This story makes God look like Joseph Stalin!

    A couple of the qualities of Deism that I really like is that it is based on reason and also unconditional love of God. In Deism there are no promises of financial wealth if you donate and there is not even a promise of eternal life if you become a Deist. You become a Deist because you believe a Supreme Intelligence exists and you want to make the world a much better place.

    Progress! Bob Johnson
    http://www.deism.com

    • Deborah_B

      Great points, Bob.

  • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

    I think all churches have this hoax. The only problem with this is that if you pay 10% of your income, right off the top, you're 10% poorer and can't pay your bills in full, unless you have a good job. I like what the woman said about the "Tithing Hoax". There is no god that will give you money for giving him/her money. If your rent is $400/month, average $100/month utilities, $15/trash removal, $20-30 in gas to fill up your car/week, minimum of $60/week w/o family on food or if you have family $100/week w/o food stamps, $20 just for soap, toilet paper, etc/week , plus payments on a medical bill due to no insurance at minimum wage, and you make only $280 take home/week at minimum wage, you're screwing yourself by paying 10% tithe right off the top before your bills. What you need for your bills will not be there and it won't magically come out of the sky, as the woman politely pointed out in her video. Not only that, as she said, that money is not going to God, it's going to the pastor/priest, so that he can have a nicer home than you do and in the end, if you're invited to your pastor/priest's home, with better food than you eat, his nice not even a year old working car, in home washer and dryer with no clothes line on the front proach, and maybe his/her kids have nicer toys than your kids do, it will leave you with a "WTF?" feeling. It's even worse if he's one that wears "bling-bling". If you can't figure out that the money you "believe" God gets is actually going to the pastor/priest so that he can have a good lifestyle… I feel sorry for you.

    Oh and don't fool yourself, if your church has a Pancake Supper on Fat Tuesday and they charge $5 for all you can eat or $5 for after evening mass supper… It doesn't go to God, but to youth ministry or alike. Ask for your records of your church's budget and you may find that an "ungodly amount" (to borrow a phrase) of money goes into supporting the pastor/priest, starting with his home. Even if it's a small church out in the boonies, tithe goes directly to the minister or visiting minister, no matter how small the church is. I know this, because my grandfather was not only assistant minister, but also in charge of finances for their church and paid their minister directly out of the Service tithes or declared to the congregation that night "our guest preacher will receive all the tithe for tonight", as he encouraged them to give generously to the visiting preacher. There isn't going to be any magical income suddenly show up in your bank account.

    If your church documents their budget for the year, ask to see it, if they don't publish it, and you'll see that the pastor/priest gets a good size chunk of it through salary and living expenses.

    Tithe is like the old saying, "a fool and his money are soon parted."

    • Deborah_B

      What is disturbing about this is the "promise" that the money will be returned a hundredfold or whatever … the Tithing Hoax authors are definitely Christians, but they see through the fallacy of the "prosperity" gospels. The way these prosperity gospels are portrayed, it's sort of like a big slot machine where you will always win if you keep playing.

      • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

        I knew the authors are Xians and see through it all and I was also saying- those who tithe aren't going to get it back any-fold. Prosperity gospels are the most disturbing of all theologies and much of it is based on the old slave theology, in which the slave was told to be a good Xian, a good slave, serve god and his master and he'll get to heaven, only without the slavery.

        • Deborah_B

          I agree. I wasn't arguing with you.

  • COinMS

    New Testament Christianity has no provision for tithing. The tithe, or tenth, was a provision in OT law in order to support the Levitical Priesthood, who had no rights to own land or otherwise heap up financial rewards through their service.
    There is nothing in the NT about tithing. Christians are really to give 100% of their time, talents, and financial resources to God… not to a church. We give to God by taking care of people, using our money wisely in order to provide for things needful for our families and then our neighbors.
    Tithing ten percent of one's income to a church is worse than a waste of money; it's not even biblical.

    • Deborah_B

      I think a lot of Christians believe now that it is "giving joyfully" instead of the tithes. I grew up in a church where 30% was given (the last 10% every few years; a consisten 20%) based on the OT, and I didn't see a lot of joy with those folks.

  • Rob S

    Send me your tithes and I will make sure they're put to good use. Well… maybe not GOOD use.

  • Peter

    They are scam arrests, low life scum hiding
    behind religion. I'm sure their Jesus would be impressed. A good expose with
    all the sordid details is Sarah Posner's God's Profits.

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